This roomy bookstore in downtown San Diego occupies two-story-tall, red-brick and glass building at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and G Street in Gaslamp Quarters. It is clean and airy place to hang out while waiting for your show to start at the Pacific Theater (cinema) across the street or just to hang out with a few friends in the area. I’m afraid it doesn’t have its own parking lot, so you’ll have to park at one of the paid lots nearby (the closest is Park-It-On-Market at 6th and Market).
In its seeming determination to sell everything, finding where the book or CD you are looking for is can be a bit tricky at times. The section signs aren’t all that clear and accurate. Though there are self-help computer scattered around the store that you can use to look up the book, CD, or DVD you are looking for…. which helps somewhat.
The lower level houses the promotional items, stationery, periodicals, fiction (except for children’s books) & poetry, and Seattle’s Best Coffee Café (T-Mobile hot spot). The lay out seems bent on making you check out all the new paperback releases before you can get anywhere since you’ll have to navigate through those promotional tables. Those interested in local interests would find books on San Diego immediately to the right when you enter the place. The section to the right of the staircase houses the periodicals with good variety of magazines to choose from… except for the foreign language ones (there are a few Spanish one, but no Paris Match or Der Spiegel!). The newspapers are kept behind the check out counter. Further to the back of the store is where you would find the romance, sci-fi, poetry, and other fiction books.
The Seattle’s Best Coffee café is nicely tucked into the right front of the store with seats inside and out in an extended glass-covered patio. You can get fancy espresso coffee here (the price is comparable to Starbuck’s) and even some pretty good hot sandwiches and sweets. The service can be quite slow, though, and sometimes it takes 10 minutes or more to get your order during the busy evening hours.
The upper story houses media department with variety of DVDs and CDs, non-fiction, calendars, games, and children’s book. This is where you’ll find the coffee table books, many with good discount on the promotional tables. The children’s section is in the back (to the right of the elevator) and offers a large selection. The non-fiction section here is a place I can literally spend hours in browsing through their science and history section. Those linguists among us will enjoy their selections of dictionaries and language training books, though will also be disappointed at the lack of actual foreign language book on these shelves (for those, try Wahrenbrock’s Bookstore on Broadway between 7th and 8th Avenues). There are many travel guides, but a rather disappointing selection of travel essays.
The music section is quite cool, though. They have listening stations where you can scan in the CDs you are interested in and listen to sample tracks from them. The rock & pop, and the instrumental classical sections offer good variety, but the opera selection is limited and depressingly geared toward cross-over artists rather than actual opera singers (and the ones they push are the old legends like Callas or Pavarotti rather than actual stars on the circuit right now like Kaufmann, Garanca, DiDonato, or Damrau). The DVD section offers anything from TV programs to movies to exercise program … and even some opera selections (not a lot, though, and nothing adventurous).
The upper level is also where the restrooms are… They’re clean, but you have to ask one of the staff for token to get into them. It used to be free access restroom, but I guess the store didn’t like that some homeless folks who loiter in the area liked to come in to use it.
The staff varies quite a bit. Some are really great; very friendly and eager to help. Some don’t seem to like their job much. The check out line isn’t very clearly marked so people regularly line up at the wrong end of the opening because they don’t see where the line actually is (it’s the far end of the counter toward the stationery section ). Check out here isn’t the fastest in town, I’m afraid much of it is because the store seems to have high staff turnover rate and you’re liable to run into a trainee more often than not. On the other hand, the reservation and the online ordering service is quite good. What you don’t see on their shelves you can usually find on their database and order. One of the store staff will call you when the item arrives. I have ordered two books online from them and each time the item arrived within 10 days.
Borders Bookstore: 668 6th Avenue (at G Street), San Diego, CA 92101. Tel. (619) 702-4200 Opens daily from 10AM – 10PM